Burgess Needle’s poetry has appeared in: Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Boston Literary Magazine and Santa Fe Literary Review. Fiction: Connotation Press and Black Market Review. Collections: EVERY CROW IN THE BLUE SKY (Diminuendo Press). THAI COMIC BOOKS (Big Table Publishing). SIT AND CRY: Two Years In the Land of Smiles, a Memoir by Wren Song Press). The author lives in Ripton, Vermont with a hazel-eyed woman of wit, charm and beauty.


“The cancer has metastasized.”

The peculiar rhythm of the doctor’s voice.

I could not help hearing the meter of his words.

“The cancer has metastasized.”

He was talking about my mother.

When in times uncertain, turn we must to prayer.

Do you hear the iambics? 

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes.

Stop it! Hear the doctor. Pay attention.

One year ago, when she still smiled easily,

     I heard the verdict and kissed her.

Then, we went on. Some of us back to school.

Myself, back to work. The old man, moping about.

Disappearing on occasion.

Like when he’d leave on a shuttle for Atlantic City.

On his own.

“Your mother’s too slow,” he told me.

“Why do you get so angry at her?”

Those were the questions I usually swallowed.

“Yeah, I know, she’s a saint!” he coughed and spit.

 “Well, try living with a saint.”

Then, the call came, echoing through my acacia tree.

I’d been listening to Bob Marley. 

The new word on the line was hospice.

My sisters knew all the failed magical

     incantations: angiogenesis inhibitors was one

     that stuck with me as I thought of Marley responding,

“It’s a ponder, mon!”

 Dutifully, we trooped in and drowned in her love.

 We, her greatest accomplishment. Her words.

Then, back to the house for tuna fish and potato salad.

The old man was out somewhere.  

I remember him saying, “The only thing I hate 

more than a sign saying Home Cooked Food, 

is the entrance to a hospital.”

Alone, the next morning, I walked up to the desk.

“How is Mrs. N doing?” I asked.

“And, you are…?” the thin-lipped nurse asked.

I gave my name. She focused and I was drilled

by the hate from her eyes.

 “It’s her son!” another voice whispered.

“Oh, I’m sorry…” abruptly, all smiles. 

“I thought you were him!”

Easy to see them all breaking out into reggae song:

“…thought you were him, honey…thought you were him!”

And, I wondered, fuck it all, mon, what don’t I know?



Within a week the cows would return,

     but, for the moment, we clutched

      chilled fingers on a high New York meadow,

     prepared for the Gray Fox Music Festival.

Blue grass night and day!

Sloping down our line-of-sight

The musicians emerged

     instruments in place, guitar, banjo,

     mandolin and fiddle already tuned

As we were turned – had been tuned

     so many decades to be there

     on that meadow as we’d been years past

          with The Charles River Valley Boys when they

          warmed their fingers over the flame

               of a Cambridge stove’s gas light.

Was it the banjo player who later became

     an award-winning biologist?

What a dense and mighty flux 

     is time and our seat on its surface.

The last evening, as if Christmas had arrived early,

     luminarias were released each carrying

     a votive candle  –  distracting even the stars.


A  Chinese emperor some millennium gone

     gestured one soft evening,

      the fine silk of his robe barely folding

          with his movement –

 A passing acknowledgement of the sight

Above     lighter-than-air lanterns

Of delicate balsa and fine paper aloft

     glowing through calligraphic lettering

     by one slim flame –

All the floating whisper of pink light

     hovering above his majesty

     beneath the same sun     the same moon

As we two so very many years later

     on dewed grass, some borrowed farm land

     we, the emperor, that long-ago biologist –

By China’s southern shore women’s

     voices arose from locked quarters

     as musical scales distinct from

          our own as an elegant trogon’s

Cough from an ordinary dove’s coo –

Linked were we     are we

     by this fragile common

     web called music –

Then, the fiddler, prancing as if on

     shoes aflame, flung about his

     strung out notes as high above

          paper lanterns floated with

Their own heat as our past licked

     and blew hot breath on our present –

     our frozen-in-time life we hold so dear!



Applaud to see opposing bodies kiss

Sensing an opening of carnal vision

They look to all their inner space

And there within the briny azure

Of the sea and falling comets

They declare, This is the very flesh of love!


A rising pulse impacts our vision

Though trapped in sensual space

Far above the hot sky’s azure

Where blind lovers see comets.

A charming concept called love

Links every tumescent sigh and kiss


To the first rippling moan from mouth’s space.

Ride above the damp ceiling of azure,

the very orbits of libidinous comets

To see turgid electrons strangely twitch in love.

Float over oceans.  Dream of a torrid kiss

So deep it overrides culture’s vision.


But, for now, consider pure azure.

Track tears shimmering like comets

Lubricating the very skin of love,

Love that preens on a feather bed holding a kiss.

Snare, for an instant, a romantic vision

Before it careens through sweaty space.


Careful! Be alert for seminal comets

As well as the longing memory of love

That vibrates from every moist, broken kiss.

Ignore each other’s pause with a joined vision

Slip through the interstice of yielding space

Away from rules, even God’s azure.


Your souls are prisms reflecting every color of love

Body to body each holds the imprint of a kiss.

Madly clutch your last pulsing vision

Of you marooned, orgasmic in space

Away from green grass, red ribbons or even azure

Sated at last on your own falling comet.


Kisses guide you to the throbbing vision

Space the path to heaven’s azure

Comets hurl you back to love.